Penn Hills Council postpones decision on Imagine trailer extension
Peter Randazzo of Penn Hills was among the parents who attended a Penn Hills Council meeting last year in support of the installation of temporary modular classrooms on the Imagine Penn Hills campus.
Last week, Randazzo was back in front of council and far less supportive of the classroom trailers, particularly after new principal Carolyn Davis could not say for certain whether the trailers were equipped with sprinkler systems or whether they had fire alarms that were wired into the main school building.
A host of issues were raised at council's June 10 meeting, where Imagine officials, through subsidiary Schoolhouse Finance LLC, were requesting a one-year extension for the conditional use permitting the placement of the classroom trailers.
The original conditional use will expire June 30.
Imagine has added a new grade level each year as students have progressed — next year, the school's third-graders will become fourth-graders, and a new group of kindergarten students will be starting.
Attorney Alan Shuckrow, representing Imagine, said school officials were requesting the extension because their original plans for accommodating students did not work out: the school secured a use variance for classroom space at 10070 Frankstown Road, but Shuckrow said the property had recently gone into receivership and was not currently usable.
Imagine officials also were hoping to purchase additional Penn Hills School District buildings — the charter school is currently housed in the former William Penn Elementary — but none of the other buildings in the district are currently available.
“The school looked diligently for another site, and found one, but it will not be ready until the 2014-15 school year,” Shuckrow told council.
The property, which Imagine has under a sales agreement signed June 6, is 1700 Universal Road, the former Anter building.
The property was an elementary school at one time, more than 40 years ago.
For the 2013-14 academic year, Shuckrow said Imagine officials are able to accommodate a fourth grade and a new kindergarten class if they are permitted to keep the modular classrooms for one more year.
Deputy Mayor Sara Kuhn criticized what she perceived as a discrepancy in Imagine's proposed plans.
“You came here last year and said you needed these trailers because you weren't able to properly house students, even though the (building) held many more children when it was a public elementary school. And now you're saying that next year, you'll be able to add a grade without expanding your square footage at all?” she asked.
Davis said the plan is to temporarily convert an art room and a student-resource room into classrooms.
“We are where we are, but we do have a workable solution,” Shuckrow said, adding that Imagine was willing to add an additional condition: that under no circumstances will the school be permitted to request an additional extension for the trailers.
With regard to the new building, Shuckrow deferred to Andy Schaer of Tusk Development in Carnegie, who said granting the extension would allow enough time “to do what we need to do to be ready by next fall … because it was built initially as a school, it has good potential to become one again.”
Schaer said this would be the fifth building Tusk has converted into a school.
At the suggestion of solicitor Bruce Dice, council will bring the matter back at its next meeting. Dice suggested including a local fire official who could speak to the issues Randazzo raised, before making a final decision on the conditional-use extension.
Shuckrow said in an email to the Progress that all of the modular units are in compliance with municipal codes, “as confirmed by last year's issuance of permits for those units ... once we receive the extension to use the modular units for an additional year, we will proceed with an expansion of the intercom system and an amplification unit that will ensure fire alarms within the main building can be heard in the modular units, even though these items are not required by the current building codes.”
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.